World Baseball Classic Champions

This show is focused on the World Baseball Classic. The World Baseball Classic is a tournament in the vein of the World Cup. Teams from countries around the world compete in a baseball tournament. The tournament takes place during spring training every few years. This year the tournament was shown exclusively on MLB.tv. This may be the reason behind the lack of awareness of the tournament.

Even though baseball is America’s pastime, the United States has never won the World Baseball Classic. Well, that changed this year as the United States is the World Baseball Classic champion. It didn’t look like the United States had a chance in this tournament but the team really didn’t have a weakness. Ian Kinsler came under fire for his comments on the makeup of the United States team. He said something about the United States team not being focused on celebrating as they are there to play baseball. These comments came after one of the teams in the tournament were celebrating throughout their game.

The media shouldn’t call out Kinsler for his comments as it wasn’t that long ago that the media was pushing the NFL to remove celebrations from their games. Now, the same media members are calling sports boring after their original comments pushed celebrations out of sports. It seems to be coming full circle as there are rumors that the NFL is going to add full celebrations back into their games. Baseball could use celebrations, but they also need to speed up the game. It is very hard to watch baseball on television unless you are at a bar or a place to casually watch a game. A World Baseball Classic championship isn’t going to lure new fans to baseball.

Awful Officiating in the NCAA Tournament

The first two rounds of the NCAA tournament have been completed. Just like every other year, there are no perfect brackets left. Countless hours and shows about bracket selections are broadcast each year and no one has every been able to pick the winning teams correctly. It has gone so far as to have websites offer round by round picks in hopes of drawing additional interest into the later rounds of the tournament.

Now onto the games, the officiating has been horrible in the tournament. The end of the North Carolina and Arkansas game was an atrocious way to start what is generally a great tournament. At this point, it seems like the NCAA actually wants the Tar Heels to win and advance to the later rounds. It makes sense from a matchup perspective. They are lined up to play some other teams with big basketball brands in the later rounds if they keep winning.

Another matchup that had a huge missed call was the Northwestern and Gonzaga game. Northwestern drives the ball to try to close the gap with what looks like an easy basket. Gonzaga has a defender reach his hand up through the hoop and knocks the ball away. If you are unfamiliar with the rules of basketball, this is an illegal move.

This goal tending call is not reviewable by the rules of the NCAA. At this point in time, there is no reason that call should not be able to be reviewed. Every NCAA tournament game has the same camera angles covering the court. The goal of replay and refs should be to make sure the game is as fair as possible. That is not happening in this tournament.

The solution would be to add another ref that sits in the booth and watches the television angles. Technology has improved to the point where multiple cameras capture every angle and that footage can be recalled at the press of a button. This gives the refs a chance to get every call right. The players deserve it. The coaches deserve. The fans deserve it. So make it happen.

Funky Seeding in the NCAA Tournament

The NCAA bracket was released Sunday night during a shortened CBS broadcast. Last year, the network tried to stretch the show into a two-hour nightmare by extending the release of the bracket as long as possible to drive ratings. This tactic failed miserably when the full bracket was leaked on Twitter minutes into the show. This year CBS took a different approach. The show started promptly and regions were released in a timely fashion. This marked a positive change by the network but the bracket itself was puzzling.

I do not like the set up of the first four play in bracket. Automatic qualifiers should not be forced to play in the first four bracket. The first four bracket should consist of only teams that made the tournament by at large selections. The Big Ten champion would never be forced to play in the first four bracket and that should go for all of the other conferences as well. The problem with the bracket extends into the number of teams they let in the tournament. Advertisers still want the tournament to expand but at some point you have to say enough is enough. The regular season has to count for something.

This debate is sure to carry over to the College Football Playoffs. The NCAA needs to step in and set up regulations that are consistent for all sports. They need to set a limit on the amount of teams that can make a post season tournament. This can be set as a percentage so that it is consistent across all sports. There are 351 Division 1 schools that play basketball across 32 conferences. Since 68 teams can make the NCAA tournament, 19.37% of schools can play in the postseason for a chance at a national championship.

There are 128 schools that play in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Using the same percentage, an equivalent playoff for football would consist of 24 teams. I think everyone can agree that 24 teams is too much for a football playoff. The same should be said of the NCAA tournament. It should not expand.

As for the seeding, the Big Ten is vastly under-seeded and their top teams have been placed in the same region. This does not allow the Big Ten conference to show its depth in the tournament. It looks like they prioritized matchups based on television ratings potential. With this, the regions worked out so that there are two overpowered regions and two that look like cake walks for the top teams.

This leaves the tournament unbalanced and slighted towards the teams that are perceived to be top basketball schools. To add some madness to March, I would like to see a more balanced bracket in the future. This would remove any doubts or questions by coaches or teams that feel they got a bad seed or should have made the tournament. Teams should have the regular season highlight their accomplishments to the point that no committee is needed to select or seed teams for the tournament. I would almost like to see some computer component added to the selection criteria. Almost.

Automatic Qualifiers Need to Be Exempt from First Four Play-In Games

Once a year, the nation turns its collective eyes toward the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Teams practice yearlong for an attempt at glory in the greatest postseason tournament in sports. For teams that belong to smaller conferences, their only shot at joining this tournament is to win their conference tournament. The conference tournament winner receives an automatic bid to the national NCAA tournament. With the current “First Four” structure, some teams will have to win yet another game until they actually make the tournament.

The First Four set up is a direct shot to the bow of the smaller conferences. Every year, four teams from smaller conferences face off in two of the first four games to decide who will end up as the actual 16 seed in the tournament. These teams have to fly to Dayton, Ohio, play a game on Tuesday or Wednesday, then fly to the host city for another game on Thursday or Friday. They have no rest in between games. Their reward for winning their play-in game is a match up against one of the top seeds in the entire country.

The first four should be changed to include only at-large teams. At-large teams make the tournament on their body of work throughout the season. They do not have a real complaint when they do not make the tournament as they always have access to an automatic bid like everyone else. The NCAA should treat every conference the same no matter how big or prestigious it is.

Every conference should be able to determine how it selects its team for their automatic bid. Some conferences may prefer to have their automatic bid go to their regular season champion while others would like to have their bid go to tournament champions. I would think that most of the bigger conferences would continue to allow their tournament champion claim the automatic bid for the conference. In most cases, the regular season champion would have a better résumé and would likely make the tournament anyway as an at-large selection. Smaller conferences would likely benefit from the opposite approach.

Smaller conferences that never receive multiple bids for the NCAA tournament would benefit from having their regular season champion make the field. They would benefit from the extra exposure they would receive if their team would pull off some upsets and make a run in the tournament. For this to happen, the conference would want their strongest team to make the field.

The regular season champion is most likely going to be their strongest team. It is a much harder accomplishment to win a regular season championship compared to a tournament championship. A tournament championship can be won by a team hitting a hot streak or by taking advantage of match up problems. The regular season is a grind that would put the strongest team on top. The best team in any conference has the best shot at making a run in the tournament. Each conference wants to see their teams do well. They can increase the chance of tournament success by getting their best teams in the field.

Having these best teams face off in a play-in game is unfair to the players. Players work hard all season long with one goal in mind — to make the NCAA tournament. Players can ensure this bid is received by winning their conference tournament. It is time the NCAA revised its first four strategy to reward teams from smaller conferences that earn an automatic bid. Let the at-large teams battle in the play-in games. Eight at-large teams battling it out in the first four games for a shot at the NCAA tournament is a lot more appealing to me than watching the University of New Orleans get their hearts ripped out in Dayton after a one point loss in the first four.